By Tom Cartwright
The irony of the title notwithstanding, there exists excel- lent opportunities within our industry to help businesses and homeowners reduce their carbon footprint simply by the type of water treatment equipment they choose. Regardless of one’s position on the environment or political slant, few can dispute that water is one of the world’s most precious resources and that mankind has a direct impact on the quality of our water.
“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.” —Ancient Native American Proverb
Appliance pile at a landfill
It should be noted that although 70 percent of the planet is covered with water, the amount that exists today has not changed for millions of years. As a non-renewable resource, it is critical we treat our water with extreme care. The way we use our water is not nearly as critical as the condition we leave it in. According to the United Nations World Environment Summit in 2003, one in six people on this planet live without access to safe drinking water and 2.4 billion live without adequate sanitation. For those of us living in developed regions of the world, those statistics can seem unimaginable. What can someone living in Chicago, IL or Oslo, Norway do to help a poor rice-growing family in Dinajpur, Bangladesh? How is it possible that what I do with my water has an adverse effect on them? For an over dramatic answer to those questions, look at the effect BP has had on the Gulf of Mexico and much of the shoreline. Another answer can be found in the hydrologic cycle. Every ounce of water we use eventually ends up being used by another—whether a neighbor or someone halfway around the world.
While the quality of our water should be of concern to all on this planet, as business people in the water industry with bills to pay, the question we should be asking is can we have a positive impact on our environment while still meeting our daily expenses? The answer is yes. And it is actually simpler than you might think. Municipalities around the world struggle to provide the highest quality water they can with ever-decreasing operating budgets—all the while dealing with higher and higher contamination levels. Combine that with homeowners and businesses looking to reduce expenses anywhere they can and you have a true quality versus economics paradigm.
To see where these two inherently binary oppositions can actually align, let’s explore the water-related costs within a typical fine-dining restaurant. For this example, we will use actual numbers from a restaurant in Phoenix, AZ with the following water related appliances:
- Water heater (2): 100 gallons each
- Dishwasher (1): with booster heater for final rinse
- Ice machine (1): 1,800 pound machine
- Coffee brewer (2)
- Tea brewer (1)
- Espresso machine (1)
- Evaporative coolers (4)
- Misters (10 heads)
- Steamer (1): cooking vegetables and reconstituting dried foods
Chart 1 represents the average expenses related to each appliance. Most of the noted appliances fail due to water-related issues. Remove those and you can substantially increase the life of each appliance. By providing these appliances with the highest quality water possible, these annual costs can be significantly reduced. Utilizing new reverse osmosis technology partnered with various other types of recognized water treatment devices (i.e., carbon/sediment filtration and disinfection) can readily offer a solution. Chart 2 shows the potential dollar savings to the restaurant after an RO system has been installed.
Not only was the business able to recognize an annual savings due to extended appliance life and reduced maintenance, they were also able to reduce their carbon footprint by:
- Doubling the life of many of their appliances—thus reducing the strain on landfills
- Reducing chemical usage for the dish washing machine
- Reducing cleaning/descaling chemicals required for the ice machine, steamer, mister, coffee brewer, tea brewer and espresso machine
- Eliminating the need to replace the evaporative cooler pad every month
Additional savings and carbon footprint decreases can readily be found in the type of water treatment provided. By installing one, centralized RO system designed to meet the water usage and flow requirements of the application, up to 80 percent of the filters can be eliminated and the water used will be the same quality as the incoming water (Chart 3).
In the case of this particular restaurant, one centralized system saved the business an additional $3,621 per year. They were also able to completely eliminate the addition of salt to the water supply, and reduced the number of filters they were sending to the landfills from 23 to four, an 83-percent reduction.
It is important when considering RO for POE applications that the system is both sized correctly and designed to provide the appropriate water quality. Previous RO technology tended to focus extensively on high TDS rejection. This tends not to work in most POE applications for several reasons:
- Low TDS water, generally below10 mg/L, can be aggressive on copper plumbing. Studies and field tests have shown that TDS levels above 10mg/L, with pH levels above 6.0, are not aggressive toward copper. Yet most RO membrane elements on the market today are designed for high TDS rejection with a strong potential for dropping the TDS levels below 10mg/L. Choose a membrane or system design that allows for more residual TDS.
- Low pH water (levels below 6.5) can create a condition where the water is aggressive toward copper and other metals. A typical RO system can drop the pH between 0.5to 0.75. There are systems available today that minimize the drop in pH.
- Many appliances on the market today utilize TDS probes to control their fill levels. These include ice machines and coffee brewers. The general rule for these appliances is to keep the permeate TDS above 25 mg/L. Be sure to check with individual appliance manufacturers on in fluent water quality standards to maintain warranty compliance.
So, going back to the question raised earlier, can we have a positive impact on our environment while still meeting our daily expenses? The answer is yes—provided you are willing to look at alternative, third-party validated methods of water treatment outside the conventional standards. The opportunities are there, not only to improve the quality of this most precious resource, but also the quality of our bottom line. Those of us in America over 40 can likely recall the TV commercial of the Native American looking out from a tremendous pile of garbage with a tear trickling down his cheek. We can all do our part to wipe away that tear.
About the Author
Tom Cartwright is CEO of GWC, Inc., dba PureOFlow, and has written multiple articles relating to residential and commercial water treatment, as well as impacts on our environment. Previously, he was Global Business Manager for GE Water and International Sales Manager for Myron L Company. With 28 years experience in water treatment and multiple patents, Cartwright has also traveled around the world lecturing on water chemistry, water treatment and the environment. He has designed water treatment systems for regions around the world dealing with contaminated water supplies, including Mozambique, Thailand, Bangladesh and India. These systems have been donated by PureOFlow.